Can someone explain why our education minister is bent on having a fight with Alberta’s teachers?
Earlier this year, Jeff Johnson, Alberta’s education minister, received strong criticism regarding the Alberta curriculum and its migration towards ‘discovery’ learning, particularly discovery math. After months locked in debate with parents and teachers who wanted a curriculum that actually taught students in a way where they would learn, Johnson recently succumbed to mounting pressure from Albertans, altering the curriculum to allow for more teaching of traditional methods of learning math.
With that fight out of the way, Johnson immediately went to work on his next project – and promptly started another fight with Alberta’s teachers.
In an attempt to improve school boards’ disciplinary procedures (and verify if they need improving) Johnson has demanded that all 61 of Alberta’s school boards provide him with documents detailing every formal complaint lodged against any staff member with a teaching certificate over the last 10 years. Johnson has also instructed school boards to include ‘all information’ related to such staff members who resigned, retired, were suspended or fired in response to allegations of unprofessional conduct or incompetence and he expects the documents by tomorrow.
The Alberta Teacher’s Association (ATA) responded, quite rightly, by saying, in much more pleasant terms, that who and how Alberta’s school boards have disciplined is none of the minister’s business. Furthermore, the ATA (again, quite rightly) have questioned the legality of Johnson demanding such information under the School Act and have asked Alberta Information and Privacy Commissioner Jill Clayton to investigate.
Johnson argues that he is entitled to such information because he is the ultimate regulator of Alberta’s teachers. In fact, he goes so far in his arrogance to comment on how it is “Amazing” that he doesn’t already have copies of such records.
Strictly speaking, Johnson is right, he is the ultimate regulator of Alberta’s teachers. However, that doesn’t mean he gets to stomp his feet and use bully tactics to get what he wants.
Teachers work for school boards, not the department of education or the education minister directly. Those school boards have the right to determine their own policies on when and how to discipline their employees. Besides, it doesn’t matter if Johnson should or shouldn’t be trying to improve how teachers are disciplined, the point is he is going about it the wrong way.
Perhaps Jim Prentice had the right idea when he implied that, if elected as leader of the Alberta PC Party, he would remove Johnson and replace him with someone more competent. That way, we could have an education minister who was actually interested in working with teachers instead of against them.